Statuette of a Discus Thrower
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Etruscan, about 480 B.C.
3 3/8 x 2 3/16 x 1 in.

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This Etruscan statuette depicts a young athlete about to throw the discus. Grasping the discus in his extended right hand, he holds his left arm up for balance. The unknown artist has caught the athlete in the moment before he makes his throw. In the ancient world, the discus throw was not an independent event, but part of the pentathlon. In both Greek and Etruscan society, the youthful, lithe, triumphant athlete was considered the height of human perfection. Images of athletes on imported Greek vases inspired the broad outlines of Etruscan depictions of athletes. Yet, Etruscan artists reinterpreted the Greek model. The squat proportions, large head, and boldly carved musculature of this youth are distinctly Etruscan.

Etruscan bronzesmiths elaborated utensils and furniture with figural ornament. This statuette, for example, probably once stood atop the central pole of an Etruscan candelabrum. Athletes, as well as warriors, Dionysiac figures, and offering bearers, were popular ornament for candelabra.